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Online ad spending will grow next year, but it won't show anywhere near the 70% quarter-on-quarter growth it's seen this year.

Spending this year should top out at about $300 million, but next year, Advertising Age predicts, the total may only reach $500 million.

That's not all bad. As marketing on the Net gets more sophisticated, the definition of advertising will shift and slide. What portion of the Time Warner/Procter & Gamble Co. Parent Time joint venture is considered ad spending? If Sun Microsystems sponsors a chat with one of its execs on the Electric Minds site, is that advertising?

If online ad spending doesn't grow as fast next year, it's not a sign of failure. The smart marketers and publishers will be looking not only beyond the banner, but beyond the ad for what they can do on the Net.

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